There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness
— Ghandi
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Concrete; heavy, cold, collapsed, murderous. Many human beings oppressed, stuck, suffocated under it all. Those innocent human beings dead, for that $7 H&M dress, or those brand new Nike Air Jordan’s. An event of 2013 that killed thousands had been swept under the rug. The Rana Plaza, a garment factory, collapsed in April of 2013 deeming it the deadliest structural failure in all of modern human history. Cracks in the building were ignored and workers were demanded to show up for their shifts. Many children, women, and men all laboring in the factory were found lifeless underneath the harsh structure. Days after, across these regions riots and protests breaking out, creating a war zone.

It can be really difficult to see the terrible things happening to innocent people around the world. Sometimes it feels as though I am helpless, especially here on this tiny island. I often ask myself, “What can I REALLY do to relieve the suffering of those far away from me?” I feel saddened when I don’t see the things that I am doing to help the world, contribute to the relief of those in turmoil across our planet. I reflect on the ripple effect. I know that if I help my sphere of influence it will ripple outwards to many others.

However, I have come to realize that my sphere of influence may have a bigger effect than what I can see immediately.

Consumerism in America is a thing that affects many individual, innocent lives. Buying simple objects that we need or think we may need has a bigger ripple effect on people around the world than we may first come to realize.  

I want to talk about one particular part of consumerism- fashion. It is popular to buy our clothes from places like Forever21, H&M, Zara, Old Navy, the Gap, Nike, etc. It may even be convenient and necessary on our college budgets, because the prices of these stores are low comparatively. The nature of these types of businesses, those of “Fast Fashion,” is that the clothing is made for very low cost of labor and materials in third world countries, and then sold in America or other first world nations for an incomparable price.

The labor of these individuals from poor third world countries is exploited, and many of them make a very small wage; an average of $5 a week. Many of these people are held to incredibly high expectations of labor. They are required to meet nearly unrealistic quotas. They are beaten and treated unfairly. Small children are forced to labor incredibly, beyond their capacities. Families are broken apart for the unrealistic call of work hours. And then these workers are not compensated enough for basic, healthy survival. These people see no peace.

There are many that are suffering at this expense, but are stuck. The demand for this clothing is high, increasing the amount of hands in a sweatshop. There is no peace abounding in a place where individuals are oppressed by capitalism.

As I was impressed by all of this knowledge, I decided that I wanted to be more mindful of how i was consuming and how it may have been causing turmoil in lives of people that are especially thousands of miles away from me. I knew that my effort, though a single drop in a huge ocean, to limit my consuming was going to help in some way. I decided to start looking into fair trade products, secondhand items, and focusing on reusing what I had.

I have compiled a list here of 10 fair trade clothing companies that won’t break the bank:

1. People Tree of the UK

2. Rice Love

3. Pura Vida Bracelets

4. Levi’s

5. Patagonia

6. Matt and Nat

7. Nau

8. Veja

9. Knowledge Cotton Apparel

10. Outdoor Voices

There are so many others out there! If you are interested, check them out and do some of your own research!

Lillian Bradley, a Intercultural Peacebuilding Alumni, has worked with many fair trade companies in their promotion to contribute to the cause against unethical business practices in the fashion industry.

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Read about her experience in the Peacebuilding Program and about what she has been doing to support and promote Fair Trade Clothing companies.

What inspired you to fulfill Peacebuilding as a major at BYU-H?

    "I was first drawn to the Peacebuilding program when I was introduced Arbinger. After finding out about that the unique program was offered for undergrad at BYU-H. I eagerly signed up for the very first course ( IPB 101 ). While in the course I knew for a fact that was exactly the major I wanted to pursue. I knew that it would help me accomplish the goals I had for myself within my career (NGO work) mentally, academically, personally and more important spiritually. I grew so much  and gained insight, tools and knowledge that has and will continue to help me forever."

How has it impacted the way you view the world? How has it blessed your life?

"The way I view the world and others around me has drastically changed from when I started the program. It has helped me focus on what's deeper. Before, the program I had a very surface level idea of others and the situations around me. The program helped provide insights and knowledge that has helped me see the world in a different light. I am much more aware of how to better love, serve, understand and ultimately help people around me more fully. The main way the program has blessed my life is --- I have grown so much from this program and I couldn’t be more grateful for the way it has shaped me as a person and the instrument it has been in my life to be a force for good in all that I do."

What are some companies or organizations that you have been apart of that works to fulfill Peace around the world?

"Companies and organizations that I have worked with are Engage Now Africa, Fahodie for Friends, Trades of Hope, Hands Producing Hope Rice Love Bags and The Tote Project. Each of these companies provide peace to many people through the products they produce and the work that they do. There are so many more companies out there who are doing good but these few have made a great impact in my own life and are the ones I have directly been involved with in some way."

What have you chosen to do with your knowledge gained from the Peacebuilding program?

"What I have chosen to do with the knowledge gained from the Peacebuilding program is apply it to my life. Three of the main things I have been involved in since being in the program are First, I have chosen to re do the mission and vision of our Non - profit organization Fahodie for Friends to better align with the deeper needs  of those we helping in Ghana I am looking to align our work with transforming the lives of those we help rather than just providing resolutions for them. Secondly, I have been involved in research that overlooks NGO optimization and how NGOs can improve what they do by meeting the deeper needs of the people they are helping and potentially measuring their success with both qualitative and quantitative research. Lastly, I have been involved in promoting fairtrade products for companies that I believe in and trust."

You’ve had some involvement with fair trade and ethical clothing companies. What is your take on this  issue in the world? And what have you done in this effort?

"I have had the opportunity to work with many fairtrade companies. The reality is that a lot of what we consume motivates sweatshops and exploitation ( human trafficking ) all over the world. Fairtrade products are sure to have been made free from that and ensure that there is no exploitation in the production of what they sell.

I think that it is a great idea to incorporate fairtrade products in your lifestyle. Although, the thing with fairtrade products at this time is that they can be expensive for a number of reasons. Not all fairtrade companies have pricey products but a majority do, so don't plan on making everything you own consume and use fairtrade at this time I don't’ think that is a realistic approach.

Ultimaley, I feel that making the effort to buy fairtrade is important, even if it is just a few things here and there, give it a try. I love buying fairtrade when I can. The clothes/ products are quality and I love the mission and vision behind what I buy.

Something that I have done with this is purchase more fairtrade goods. I also have worked with companies to promote their fairtrade products through social media. I have had the opportunity to work with companies such; as Rice Love Bags, Bead & Reel, Synergy clothing, The Tote Project, Hands Producing Hope etc."

Do you have suggestions for those that want to contribute to this effort? Whether it’d be in their own lifestyle changes, or getting involved in an organization or company?

"My suggestions would be First ,  if you’re interested, reach out to a few companies and see if you can volunteer in sharing their products to get the word out there. Second be more aware of what you’re buying. Get on to the web and look up a few fair trade companies. It could be clothes, food, makeup, hair products etc. there are various companies out there find some of them and incorporate there goods into your life."

Written by Bailee Rasmussen